The good pre-season performance by several Slave Lake minor hockey teams has had the predictable result: they are in the top tier of the Alberta Interlock League, and in for some tough competition.
Take the U18 Thunder, for starters. They’re in a combined Tier 2 – 3 league that’s got everybody and his dog in it, which makes it hard to figure out. But the Thunder, who look pretty good on paper, lost their regular season opener to Redwater and it doesn’t get any easier. Their next two opponents are (or were) Drayton Valley 1 and Edson 1. The Thunder actually beat Redwater in pre-season, so it’s looking as if there are no freebies. And that’s probably a good thing.
The U15 #1 Thunder looked even stronger in pre-season, although they did lose their opener to Drayton Valley. After that they romped, scoring 39 and allowing only seven. But their first regular season game was no cakewalk – an 8 – 6 win over Barrhead. The Thunder are in a combined Tier 1-2 league, which promises some more close, hard-fought contests. Whether they are among the elite teams in that milieu remains to be seen, but so far, so good. They certainly have some first-rate offensive capability, but don’t have the depth of Drayton Valley – judging by that game back in early October.
U15 #2s were placed in Tier 3, which is actually the second Tier, as it turns out, with everybody above them lumped into the same group. They lost their opener 13 – 10 to Mayerthorpe.
The U13 #1 team is also in the highest tier listed on the NAIL website. It’s a much smaller group than either of the above two, with only seven teams. As noted elsewhere, the Thunder got off to a great start by beating Fort McMurray on Nov. 12. The other teams are Hinton, CR, Drayton Valley, Barrhead and Edson.
Their U13 #2 counterparts are in the Tier 5 – 6 group, and look to have their work cut out for them. They lost 9 – 6 in their opener, to the Athabasca 2A squad. This game happened too late to get into last week’s Leader. Slave Lake goal-scorers were Ethan Albert (2), Jake Courtorielle (2), Jackson Pretty and Ryland Eben-Ebenau.
What about the U11s? Again, the #1 is in the top tier in the NAIL and right off the bat, they tied Barrhead 6 – 6, showing that they are in the right group.
Believe it or not, the U11 #2 team, slotted in Tier 5 – 6, also tied their first game. It was a 12 – 12 barnburner against Onoway, with Jack Oostvogels breaking out for seven goals for Slave Lake.
Conclusion: Lots of really good hockey action is coming our way, at all levels.